A Quotable Grief

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“How futile are words in the ears of those who mourn.”
–Helen Keller, “We Bereaved” (1929)

“All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.”
–Emily Brontë, “Remembrance” in “Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell” (1846)

“Death is too much to ask of the living.”
–Dodie Smith, “The Town in Bloom” (1965)

“To everyone else, the death of that being you love for his own sake, for her own sake, is an event that occurs on a certain day. For you, the death only begins that day. It is not an event: it is only the first moment in a process that lives in you, springing up into the present, engulfing you years, decades, later, as though it were the first moment again.”
–Alice Koller, “The Stations of Solitude” (1990)

“Grief-stricken. Stricken is right; it is as though you had been felled. Knocked to the ground; pitched out of life and into something else.”
 –Penelope Lively, “Moon Tiger”(1987)

“Life must go on; I forget just why.”
–Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Lament,” Second April (1921)

“Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave/Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;/Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave./I know.  But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
–Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Dirge Without Music” in “The Buck in the Snow” (1928)

“Memory is the only friend of grief.”
–Rumer Godden, “China Court” (1961)

“The body was so little a part of him that its final stillness seemed nothing of importance. He was half out of it anyway and death was only a slipping out of it altogether and being at last what he always was, a spirit. We buried the pearly shell upon the mountain top.”
–Pearl S. Buck, “Fighting Angel” (1936)

“The distance that the dead have gone /Does not at first appear—/Their coming back seems possible/For many an ardent year.”
–Emily Dickinson, “Poems by Emily Dickinson,” 3rd series, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd (1896)

“Nothing on earth can make up for the loss of one who has loved you.”
–Selma Lagerlöf, “Jerusalem”(1915)

“Part of getting over it is knowing that you will never get over it.”
–Anne Finger, “Past Due” (1990)

“You don’t get over it because ‘it’ is the person you loved.”
–Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body (1992)

“There are some griefs so loud/They could bring down the sky/And there are griefs so still/None knows how deep they lie.”
–May Sarton, “Of Grief” in “A Durable Fire” (1972)

“I find the weight of air/Almost too great to bear.”
–Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “Mountain” in “The Unicorn” (1956)

“Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone, his own burden, his own way.”
–Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “Dearly Beloved”(1962)

 “One must go through periods of numbness that are harder to bear than grief.”
–Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead” (1973)

“Like a bird out of our hand/Like a light out of our heart/You are gone.”
–H.D., “Hymen” in “Collected Poems” (1925)

“The sun has set in your life; it is getting cold. The hundreds of people around you cannot console you for the loss of the one.”
–Maria Augusta Trapp, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” (1949)

“What’s grief but the after-blindness/of the spirit’s dazzle of love?”
–Gwen Harwood, “Past and Present” in “Poems, Volume Two” (1968)

“She must face her grief where the struggle is always hardest—in the place where each trivial object is attended by pleasant memories.”
–Ellen Glasgow, “The Battle-Ground” (1902)

“Emptied with weeping/my eyes are/two buckets of the waterman/as he walks among orchard trees.”
–Safiya bint Musafir, “At the Badr Trench” (7th century) in “Women Poets of the World”(1983) edited by Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashgari

“Griefs, when divided become less poignant.
–Eliza Parsons, “Castle of Wolfenbach”(1793)

“Mourning has become unfashionable in the United States.  The bereaved are supposed to pull themselves together as quickly as possible and to reweave the torn fabric of life. … We do not allow … for the weeks and months during which a loss is realized … a beautiful word that suggests the transmutation of the strange into something that is one’s own.”
–Margaret Mead and Rhoda Metraux, “A Way of Seeing” (1970)

“A mourner is, perforce, a person with a story.  The pity is, how very rarely it gets told.”
–Christian McEwen, “The Color of the Water, the Yellow of the Field” in “Out the Other Side” (1988) edited by Christian McEwen and Sue O’Sullivan 

“Death was but the unfolding of a long bud-bound flower; the bursting forth of a rock-hampered fountain.”
–Mourning Dove, “Cogewea” (1927)

“Death’s not a separation or alteration or parting; it’s just a one-handled door.”
–Stevie Smith, “Mrs. Simpkins” in “A Good Time Was Had by All “(1937)

“Death is the opening—and the closing—of a Door.”
–Ethel M. Dell, “The Keeper of the Door” (1915)

“Death is a door life opens.”
–Adela Rogers St. Johns, “Love, Laughter and Tears” (1978)

“Death is only an old door/Set in a garden wall.”
–Nancy Byrd Turner, “Death Is a Door” in “Star in a Well” (1935)

“There is no Death,/What seems so is transition.”
–Marie Corelli, “The Life Everlasting” (1911)

“A human being does not cease to exist at death.  It is change, not destruction, which takes place.”
–Florence Nightingale (1860) in “Suggestions for Thought” (1994) edited by Michael D. Calabria and Janet A. Macrae

“There is no death to those who perfectly love—only disappearance, which in time may be borne.”
–Harriet Martineau (1840) in “Harriet Martineau’s Letters to Fanny Wedgwood” (1983) by Elisabeth Sanders Arbuckle,

“Oh, dark, inevitable and awful day,/When one of us will go, and one must stay.
–Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “That Day” in “The Collected Poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox” (1917)

“There will be a time you bury me/Or I bury you in the garden.”
–Tomioka Taeko, “Living Together,” in “Women Poets of the World” (1983) edited by Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashgari

“Oh, write of me, not ‘Died in bitter pains,’/But ‘Emigrated to another star!’
–Helen Hunt Jackson, “Emigravit” (1876) in “An American Anthology 1787-1900” (1900) edited by Edmund Clarence Stedman

“What we call death was to him only emigration.”
–Amelia E. Barr, “All the Days of My Life” (1913)

“He is not dead! he only left/A precious robe of clay behind,/To draw a robe of love and light/Around his disembodied mind.”
–Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, “Obituary for J. Edwards Barnes,” in National Anti-Slavery Standard (1858)

“coming to the end of spring/my grandmother kicks off her shoes/steps out of her faltering body.”
–Betsy Sholl, “Spring Fragments” in “Rooms Overhead” (1986)

“When a child dies, it breaks the pattern, the most fundamental pattern in life.”
–Jane Stanton Hitchcock, “Trick of the Eye” (1992)

“With our parents we bury our past, with our children our future.”
–Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, “Aphorisms”(1893)

“The dead don’t bear a grudge nor seek a blessing.  The dead don’t rest uneasy.  Only the living.”
–Margaret Laurence, “The Stone Angel” (1964) 

The above quotations are from Maggio’s “The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women” (Beacon Press). Visit quotationsbywomen.com for more.

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